Saturday, May 19, 2012

All About Socks

Oh, the knitting. The bright side of having all of my spring classes canceled is that I've had more knitting time than expected (although still not enough--never enough). If you've known me for more than 20 minutes, or even if you're the stranger who was staring at me in Saigon* the other day, you know that I'm a little bit obsessive about knitting socks. I've heard of toe-up socks, of course, but in my three-ish years of obsessive sock knitting, I've only done cuff-down and I've always wondered if I was missing something. When I saw a toe-up sock pattern book on clearance it was like a sign from God that it was time to learn toe-ups. Or a sign from the manager of that bookstore. Whatever. When life hands you a really cheap toe-up sock book, you learn toe-up socks. So I cast on my first toe-up in late March and have completed two pairs since then (although not the first pair), and I figure that gives me the right to an opinion. 

I should probably make sure my next socks aren't purple.
I can't say that toe-ups are going to be my go-to method of sock knitting. Some of the things I like best about sock knitting are negated by working toe-up. When you're working a sock cuff-down, you get the ribbing out of the way right at the start, but in toe-up, the dreaded ribbing comes last, and that makes that last inch of sock really seem to drag. Another bonus of working a sock cuff-down is that you do the pattern repeat all around the leg, and then when you get to the foot, you can stop working the pattern on the sole, so suddenly you're moving a lot faster. It's a nice little burst of speed that you lose when you're working the other way around.

On the other hand, there are some pretty awesome aspects of working a sock toe-up. Most obviously, Judy's Magic Cast-On really is magic! I swear! As impressed as I was when I first learned to turn a heel, this is how impressed I am with the Magic Cast-On. Plus it's fun to do--as are most magic tricks, I suppose. I'm also pretty impressed with Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off. It is really surprisingly stretchy, a rare example of truth in advertising. I was about to give up on toe-ups all together because the three bind-offs I tried from the toe-up sock book were all too tight. And then Jeny came along and saved me from myself. I hope someday when I grow up I will have a knitting technique named after me, too.

So, no, toe-ups will not be my go-to method, but it's a technique I'm glad to have conquered so that when a special design I just can't resist comes along, I'm ready for it. And what type of design is so special that it can't be resisted, you wonder? I'm glad you asked.

This type:

This pattern is called "Covered in Butterflies" and it's by my own personal knit-designing friend, Drew Hayes. I just want to establish right now that I have met Drew and he is my friend and we have had real in-person conversations and have drunk beer together and played Scrabble and everything. I need to get that in writing because someday Drew will be famous and no one will believe that a designer of his stature would ever bother with some amateur like me.

This is exactly the type of pattern I love to work. The lace is fairly complicated and kept my attention, but it was repetitive enough that I had it memorized by the time I finished the first foot. So the design was engaging and entertaining, but I didn't have to constantly refer back to the pattern. Perfect.

Click to see a larger picture of the pattern.
I even eventually fell in love with the teensy cables on the cuff--although not until after I had muttered some very impolite words about poor Drew, which I'm glad he was not in the room to hear.

I am not generally a fan of cables, and little-bitty cables in Regia, which refuses to be cabled without a needle, are not likely to make me more amenable. But after I finished the first sock, I couldn't imagine this design without cables. The cables suggest vines, which complements the butterflies perfectly. Plain 2x2 ribbing would just be dull and wrong. So as much as I dislike cables, I have no choice but to admit that they are the best and only option on this sock. It's a testament to Drew as a designer that he realized that.

As far as I know, Drew hasn't made the pattern public yet, but I hope he will. In fact, I encourage all of you to bug the living hell out of him until he does ("JustDrew" on Ravelry). The world needs to be Covered in Butterflies!

Update 6/8/12: Drew has put the pattern up for sale. The Ravelry link is here. Go there. Now.

*Saigon the Vietnamese restaurant in Wichita, Kansas, not the formerly-known-as city in Vietnam. 

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